Syracuse, Wake meet looking for 1st ACC win
Oct. 17, 2014
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — If there's any realistic chance for Wake Forest to turn its rough season around, the Demon Deacons have to beat Syracuse.
Same goes for the Orange.
Someone's going to get a win Saturday when Wake Forest plays host to Syracuse in a matchup of Atlantic Division teams winless in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
"If there's any chance that this team becomes a bowl team — and I'm sure that the people up in Syracuse are saying the same thing — this one, we've both got to get," new Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said.
Not much has gone right lately for either team. The Orange (2-4, 0-2) have lost four straight since opening with consecutive wins over Villanova and Central Michigan.
Wake Forest (2-4, 0-2) has stumbled to two straight losses after going 2-2 against a weak nonconference schedule.
The Demon Deacons had last week off to regroup following a 43-3 loss at Florida State. The Seminoles then had a slightly more difficult time against Syracuse last week, beating the Orange 38-20.
"Offensively, they've had some struggles, but they've had some time to get ready and prepare for us, so we're going to be attacked, and I'm sure they'll do a good job of attacking our tendencies," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "So it'll be a mixed bag of things, but we'll have to do a good job of changing things up on that side of the ball to keep them off balance."
Both teams are starting true freshman quarterbacks — Syracuse's AJ Long got extensive playing time last week against Florida State while Wake Forest has gone with John Wolford all year — and Clawson figures the game plan will be the same for both teams.
"I think the formula to win for us is that we've got to play good defense, we have to be good in the kicking game and we've got to be opportunistic on offense and not turn the ball over," Clawson said. "And I don't know if their formula right now is much different."
Some things to know about Syracuse's first visit to Wake Forest since 2006:
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Much has been made of the Demon Deacons' abysmal rushing offense — Wake Forest ranks last in the nation, averaging just 31 yards per game — but they hope to get something going behind Dezmond Wortham. His 68 yards rushing against the Seminoles marked the most by a Wake Forest player this season. "Right now, we are a bad running football team," Clawson said. "Can we become average? That would help us right now."
NOW STARTING: Long showed elusiveness and a nice touch throwing in his debut against Florida State, throwing for 167 yards and two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions. He said he'd grade himself "a C to a C-plus" for his debut because "there were a lot of mental mistakes I need to clean up. I played an OK game. If you want to go out and win, you can't turn the ball over."
OLD HAT: Syracuse quarterbacks coach Tim Lester took on new responsibilities last week, adding the role of offensive coordinator. A former quarterback and an OC in college for nine years, Lester still was on edge. "I was nervous. Once I called the first play or two, you kind of just forget about it and get back into a rhythm," Lester said. "As soon as we started calling plays, it was no big deal.."
HOME SWEET HOME: This marks Clawson's first home ACC game at Wake Forest and it starts a run in which the Demon Deacons don't leave the state of North Carolina the rest of the year. Their only remaining road games are at Wake Forest and N.C. State. That's a bit more manageable than those road trips to Monroe, Louisiana, and Logan, Utah. "We've been road warriors and crisscrossed the country," Clawson said.
DUBIOUS RECORD: It's typically not a good sign when your punter gets this much playing time: Wake Forest's Alex Kinal now holds the school record for career punts with 221, breaking Ryan Plackemeier's mark. Kinal is only a redshirt junior and has another year remaining.
AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse, New York, contributed to this report.